Ricoh and Xerox deliver fast color in a big way
Pricey and speedy models break the tabloid barrierFollow @infoworld
The past couple of years have seen the consolidation of color laser printers as affordable, reliable mainstream machines, delivering a big boon to office workers who need to produce attractive, informative business documents. The next frontier is color machines that can print on tabloid or larger paper (up to 12 inches by 18 inches), offering the versatility to produce posters, technical illustrations, double-sided saddle-stitched booklets, and similar complex documents.
For this review, I looked at two new oversize color printers with revved-up engine specs: Ricoh’s Aficio CL7300D and Xerox’s Phaser 7400DN, both specified for between 30 ppm (pages per minute) and 40 ppm on text and color. To provide performance and cost perspective, I looked back at two similar machines, Lexmark’s C920dn and Oki Printing Solutions’ C9600hdn, that Melissa Riofrio and I reviewed on Oct. 3, 2005.
The new Ricoh and Xerox machines run fast, are a pleasure to operate, and generate creditable prints. But I uncovered some important differences. The Ricoh’s print quality is a smidgen better, but aggressive pricing from Xerox plus faster performance give the Phaser 7400DN a slight lead overall.
Ricoh Aficio CL7300D
The Ricoh Aficio CL7300D is easy to set up and use. For one thing, the company includes instructions for both dealer and owner, plus a long, detailed maintenance manual. Moreover, the color-calibration sheet has instructions printed right on it. (I didn’t need the sheet because the automatic calibration function worked well.)
This printer gets mostly good marks for mechanical design. It weighs more than 200 pounds, but deep handholds at each corner (replaced on duplexer-equipped models, like the one I tested, with a sturdy steel bar on one side) make it easy to lift. The paper trays adjust smoothly and have stops to prevent them from being dumped on the floor. The three trays come in handy for letterhead, second sheet, plus plain paper for internal documents. The imaging components inside the front door are somewhat inconvenient to remove and replace, but the huge toner tubs drop easily into place under a flap on the right side.
Ricoh’s control panel menus are logically organized so a beginner could probably figure out how, for example, to print a password-protected document. But the two-line LCD doesn’t accommodate much hand-holding such as prompts. The printer’s internal Web site, in contrast, provides pages and pages of admin features to authenticate users and control access, set up various error-notification schemes, and configure network parameters.
Minor complaints: The printer comes with single-use paper-size labels for the paper trays, so if you change sizes you’ll soon resort to sticky notes. Also, with two internal trays, the CL7300D is so tall that when I put it on a workbench I had to climb on a chair to see the control panel LCD; consider a rolling base instead, which costs $175. And one of the jam-clearing doors only opens 45 degrees, which makes for an awkward reach.
The Ricoh falls slightly behind the Xerox on text-printing speed, churning out plain text at 26.1 ppm, compared with the Xerox’s 27.4 ppm; it falls further behind on graphics, at 6.6 ppm versus the Xerox’s 8.5 ppm.